Why the church can’t afford to ignore the environmental crisis.
By Gideon Heugh
We should be grieving. We should be weeping and wailing and shouting at the heavens.
How long, O Lord – how long will you do nothing while mankind lays waste to your creation?
God’s answer, of course, is how long will you do nothing?
A UN report on the health of the natural world, released on Monday, has laid bare the terrifying extent to which we’re destroying creation. We are currently in the midst of a mass extinction on a scale not seen since the dinosaurs were wiped out.
The headlines from the report make grim reading:
- One million species are at risk of extinction
- Three quarters of all land on Earth has been damaged by human activity
- Up to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge are dumped into the waters of the world every year
But why should we care about nature when there are people suffering?
Because if we harm nature, we harm ourselves.
One third of all crop production on Earth relies on pollinators such as bees and other insects. Nearly eight hundred million people currently don’t have enough food to eat – if insect populations continue to decline, that number will skyrocket.
Furthermore, the report shows that 300 million people are being put at risk of flooding due to the loss of coral reefs and mangrove forests.
The clearing of rainforests releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as well as reducing the Earth’s ability to absorb them – accelerating climate change. The loss of these habitats often displaces vulnerable indigenous communities.
If we truly love Christ, we need to love his creation. The church must stand against anything that prevents life – all life – from flourishing.
This isn’t just a ‘green’ issue, a liberal issue, or a political issue. This is a human issue, and it’s one that the church mustn't ignore.
The Bible tells us that all things are made through Christ (John 1:3) – plants, mammals, fish, rivers, trees, everything. God takes joy in creation (Genesis 1), and charges us with its care (Genesis 2:5).
We cannot go on living as if we are separate from the rest of nature. The more we consume and our economies grow, the further this beautiful Christ-woven world is pushed to breaking point.
So, what do we do now?
The way forward, towards an economy that cherishes creation, will require changes at every level of society – both collectively and individually.
‘We need to change the way we think about what a good life is,’ says Prof Sandra Diaz, one of the authors of the UN report. ‘We need to change the narrative that puts an emphasis on high consumption and quick disposal.
'We need to shift to an idea of a fulfilling life that is more aligned with a good relationship with nature, and a good relationship with other people.'
Prof Sandra Diaz
In the Bible, we see God call his people to model a better way of living to the world around them – to let our lights shine before others (Matthew 5:14-16). Looking after creation is a way that we can shine and show love to our neighbours. There are a number of practical steps we can take to do this, which you can find below.
These issues might seem overwhelming, but there is always hope in Christ – amazing things can happen if we take action together as the church. As always, we can start with prayer. Please join us in saying this prayer for creation:
Thank you for this amazing world you have created.
Thank you for its beauty, and for the abundance of life within it.
We repent for the way we have abused this earth –
The poisoned rivers, the toxic fumes, the polluted seas,
The species we have made extinct. Forgive us.
We pray for an end to man-made climate change,
For the prevention of disastrous temperature rises
And for nature to be restored.
We pray that governments and corporations
Will take swift and decisive action –
That everyone will see your creation as a gift to be cherished,
Not a resource to be plundered.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Some ideas for practical action:
- Call on the government to adopt stronger laws to reverse environmental decline by writing to your MP.*
- Reduce your food waste at home and eat less meat. If possible, make the switch to organic, seasonal produce.
- Use public transport more, walk or cycle and reduce how often you fly.
- Switch to a 100 per cent renewable electricity provider for your home and church (you can do this at www.bigcleanswitch.org/tearfund).
- If you have a garden, avoid using chemical weed killers, mow the lawn less and plant pollinator-friendly plants.
- Reduce your impact as a consumer by following the principles of refuse, repair, reuse and recycle.
*For more information, and for more steps you can take to help care for God’s creation, please visit www.tearfund.org/action.